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By Joel Kasow

PARIS, 17 APRIL 2013 — Sir Colin Davis has left us, and the world is a poorer place. He was a musician whose love of music was infectious, and his tastes were wide, a specialist in Berlioz, Sibelius, Mozart, Tippett and so many others in addition. I interviewed him when he conducted Les Troyens at La Scala and, like so many others, found him to be the perfect gentleman. We spoke of course about Berlioz, but a great many other composers, as well as aspects of the contemporary musical scene. As with other conductors of his generation, he gradually left the opera house finding greater satisfaction in concert performances of the operatic repertory, as we can hear in many of his recordings for the LSO label.

I was also privileged to hear him many times when he was one of the principal guest conductors of the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam when he gave stylish performances of Haydn symphonies and incandescent Dvorak, all recorded at the time. We must not forget that Davis also championed Sir Michael Tippett, his operas and symphonic music, but it is above all his Berlioz that marked a generation, for few were the conductors who were even given the opportunity to present an uncut Les Troyens. Davis reveled in the music, both of his recordings making us wonder why the work is still not in the standard repertory alongside, say, Wagner who is equally as long and equally as demanding in every respect. Who but Davis has had his say three times on Béatrice et Bénédict (the first in my opinion the most sparkling), twice on Benvenuto Cellini, three times on L’Enfance du Christ, not to mention multiple versions of the Symphonie Fantastique or Harold in Italy. Davis’s first recording of Mozart’s Idomeneo was a voyage of discovery, ennobled by a cast that was serving the work and not enhancing their own careers.

Sir Colin Davis: 25 September 1927 – 14 April 2013

Lengthy tenures at the Royal Opera House and the London Symphony Orchestra propelled him to stardom but that was far from his goal. He was serving the music and for that we remain greatful.

Joel Kasow is the Operanet editor at Culturekiosque. He has been opera critic for Opera (U.K.) and Opera News (U.S.A.) for over thirty years and was elected to the International Music Critics Association (UNESCO) in 1996.

Related Culturekiosque Archives

Concert Review: Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra Launch Centenary With Three Concerts in New York

Interview: Sir Colin Davis 

Opera Review: Les Troyens at La Scala in Milan

Post-War British Opera, Part One

Opera CD Reviews:Berlioz, the fourth B

101 Best Classical CDs: Berlioz: La Damnation de Faust

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